Champion of the Rich and Militarists

While the foreign-and military policy of President Obama is everything other than worthy of a Nobel Prize for peace, the positions of his challenger Mitt Romney lead to total fear and worry. His foreign policy strategy paper “An American Century” is unsurpassed in aggressiveness. America has a one-party system with two right-wings (Gore Vidal).
CHAMPION OF THE RICH AND MILITARISTS

Mitt Romney and the Return of Neoconservatives

By Jurgen Wagner

[This article published in October 2012 is translated from the German on the Internet, http://www.wissenschaft-und-frieden.de/index.php?pid=0&comment=up&com=1.]

In the US, the joke makes the rounds that the shortest distance between two mud piles is a Romney. Nevertheless the polls about who will emerge as the winner of the looming US election in November are extremely close. While the foreign- and military policy of US president Barack Obama is everything other than worthy of a Nobel Prize for peace, the positions of his challenger Mitt Romney lead to total fear and worry. Romney has surrounded himself with an endless team of hardliner advisors. His foreign policy strategy paper “An American Century” is unsurpassed in aggressiveness.

RETURN OF NEOCONSERVATIVES

A dossier drawn up by the Republican presidential campaign in 2008 bluntly addresses the deficits of today’s champion: “Romney’s experiences in foreign policy are extremely limited which leads to credibility problems.” [1] Who Romney brings on board as advisors on “orientation” is very important. If one goes down the list of names, it is striking that he relies almost exclusively on neoconservatives in the extreme rightwing of the republicans. “For obvious reasons, Romney guards himself from mentioning Bush during the campaign. Still both sound like kindred ideological spirits. When one listens to Romney, one wouldn’t know Bush left office entangled in two unpopular wars that cost America enormous blood and money. More than 70 percent of Romney’s foreign policy advisors worked for Bush. [2]

The neoconservative agenda that provided an ideological-moral foundation for US military spending after the attacks of September 11, 2001 has one goal: preserving and building the – increasingly fragile – US hegemony in the world. A gigantic military machine must be supplied with enmormou8s resources (pleasing the close friends from the weapons lobby). Actual or imagined enemies are threatened instead of negotiating with them. International law and treaties are degraded to merely troublesome instruments for absolute exercise of power. [3] The “Project for the New American Century” (PNAC) founded in 1997 by foreign policy hardliners has long served as the most influential repository of the “movement.” In 2000, the PNAC published the report “Rebuilding America’s Defenses” in which “maintaining the Pax Americana” was defined as the precedent strategic goal of the United States. “The US does not currently face any global rivals. The grand strategy of the US should aim at preserving and expanding this favorable position as far as possible into the future.” [4] In general, the document was a sweeping military attack of all-pervasive goodness: “The task of the military is to extend the zones of `democratic peace,’ frustrate the rise of new super-power rivals, defend key regions in Europe, East Asia and the Middle East and maintain American hegemony through the transformation of warfare made possible by new technologies.” [5]

The significance of this document comes from three sources: firstly the many high-ranking later cabinet members who joined in its composition [6], secondly from the fact that it functioned as a blueprint for the “war against terror” of the Bush administration launched a short time later [7] and thirdly because many of the hardliners involved in its composition at that time now seem to be making a new attempt at plunging the world into chaos and war in Mitt Romney’s staff of advisors.

HARDLINER PANOPTICUM

One of the most prominent Romney advisors is John Bolton who signed a 1998 PNAC letter urging US president Bill Clinton to attack Iraq. [8] In the Bush administration, he made a name for himself as a hardliner first as under-secretary in the US State Department and then as a US ambassador at the United Nations. He expanded the original “axis of evil” that was “limited” by George W. Bush in January 2002 to North Korea, Iraq and Iran, in May of 2002 in a speak about Libya, Syria and Cuba and also threatened these countries with military attacks. [9] That this man who made no secret of his contempt for all forms of international cooperation and international treaties is one of the most promising candidates for a high post in the Romney cabinet is very cynical. [10]

PNAC founding member Paula Dobriansky and Robert Joseph who “distinguished” himself by adding the – freely invented – accusation in George W. Bush’s 2003 State of the Nation address that Iraq tried to buy enriched uranium in Niger. This lie given as one of the reasons for the offensive war against Iraq was exposed by Joseph C. Wilson who travelled to Niger to investigate the criticisms and wrote an article in the New York Times in July 2003. [11] The reaction followed right away. Eric Edelman, also a Romney advisor and collaborator in the “Pax Americana document,” proposed to Lewis “Scooter” Libby, chief-of-staff of Vice president Cheney leaking to the press the identity of Wilson’s wife Valerie Plame as a CIA agent. [12] Since this was a criminal offense, Libby had to go because of the “Plame affair” and was sentenced to 30 months in prison in 2007. Shortly afterwards he was pardoned by George W. Bush. [13]

Another founding PNAC member and co-author of the “Pax Americana Strategy” Eliot Cohen found his way into Romney’s team of advisors and also gained “honor” for writing the foreword to the strategic foreign policy paper of the presidential campaign. The foreword was titled “An American Century” following the “Project for the New American Century.” Between 2007 and 2009 Cohen was an advisor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, pleaded early on for an attack on Iraq and described the “war against terror” as the “Fourth World War.” He repeatedly urged the Obama government to “actively work for the overthrow of the Iranian government.” [14]

ROBERT KAGAN: INTERNATIONAL GURU

The intellectual heavyweight in Romney’s advisory staff is undoubtedly Robert Kagan who influenced US and international debates with several books. Together with William Kristol, another neo-conservative grey eminence, he was an editor of the 2000 book “Present Dangers: Crisis and Opportunity in American Foreign and Defense Policy,” which also had a great influence on the later policy under George W. Bush alongside the “Pax Americana Strategy” in which Kagan also collaborated. [15]

In 2002, Kagan published the much noted “Power and Weakness” that was expanded to book size a year later. In summary, he argued that the US (Mars) and Europe (Venus) are on completely different planets. Since the end of the Cold War, the United States has accepted the challenges of the new era. However this means bidding farewell to European ideas of living in a “post-modern paradise” where violence and the right of the stronger are eclipsed by international law in international relations. Europe must overcome its aversion to military actions and initiate a massive armaments program to be relevant for the US in the future. That was Kagan’s core idea at that time. [16] Given the militarization of the European Union started in 1999, these theses seemed out of touch with reality. Nevertheless they influenced the debates at that time and give a following wind to those pressing for expanding the European military potential.

In his 2008 “The Return of History and the End of Dreams,” Kagan forecast a “return of geopolitics” and a new block confrontation between “democracies” and “autocracies.” “The old rivalry between liberalism and autocracy flared up again and the super-powers of the world take positions corresponding to their form of government. [... ] History returns and democracies must join forces to make history. Otherwise others will do this for them.” [17] This thesis of a threatening “new Cold War” had a strong echo in neo-conservative circles. In addition, many ideologues even within the Obama government see a new super-power competition (along Kagan lines) brewing – even if in a weakened form – and urge military preparation. [18]

Kagan’s last prank, trick or practical joke enjoys great popularity in both political camps. His essay “The Myth of American Decline” published in January 2012 in the New Republic [19] was read withy great approval by both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. [20] This essay sharply rejects all gloomy predictions that US hegemony could be seriously endangered. Certainly there are problems. But they are nothing compared to earlier times and are not real challenges for US-American dominance in the world. So an active (military-) policy must be maintained. The essay is simultaneously a passionate defense of the alleged blessings that US hegemony brings to the whole world.

Kagan regards all demands to bid farewell to this hegemony as gross recklessness. “The danger is that Americans when the country faces problems will convince themselves that descent is unavoidable or that the US could take a time out from assumption of global responsibility and put its house in order. {… ] Maintaining today’s world order requires a constant US leadership and a permanent US engagement. At the end, Americans make the decision. As Charles Krauthammer remarked, descent is a choice, not a hopeless fate. Whether the United States will begin to descend in the next two decades or can avoid this for the next two centuries will be very important for Americans and for the kind of world in which they live.” [21]

After the “Project for the New American Century” ended its activity in 2005 because of increased criticism and the many close connections to the Bush administration, the “Foreign Policy Initiative” {FPI) has functioned since Barack Obama’s assumption of office as an ideal PNAC successor with many continuities in personnel. [22] The entire FPI board of directors is on Romney’s staff of advisors. Besides Dan Senor who collaborated in the neoliberal reconstruction of Iraq as a member of the “Coalition Provisional Authority,” the team consists of Eric Edelman, William Kristol and Robert Kagan. [23] Therefore it is hardly surprising that the FPI proposal catalogue for the 2012 presidential election was adopted almost word for word by Mitt Romney.

“AN AMERICAN CENTURY”: MILITARIST AGENDA

The ultra-militarist agenda of the neoconservatives and many of Robert Kagan’s ideas are found in the strategy paper “An American Century” that “outlines Mitt Romney’s perspective on the most important foreign policy and security challenges for the United States.” [25] The core ideas of “The Myth of American Decline” are repeated in the foreword by Eliot Cohen. “The hardened American power factors, the argument goes, fade, our soft possibilities of influence (soft power) and our moral authority are compromised and our resolution weakened. Some people even think this is a desirable state. [... ] That is a wrong and dangerous idea. The United States cannot withdraw from the world without exposing itself to great dangers.” (p.11) In the main text, this idea is taken up[ several times as in the following formulation: "A weak America, an America in decline, an America that withdraws from its obligations, would produce an era of insecurity and danger first for the United States and then for everyone else who believes in the cause of freedom." (p.13)

Dangers that must be countered are seen where we are short in everything - first with the potential super-power rivals Russia and China. "Traditional problems of state leadership are found at one end of the spectrum. Powerful countries like Russia and China are growing in strength and seek their place in the sun. [... ] The authoritarian character of China and Russia prompts these countries to conduct endangering international security. Thwarting their noxious ambitions and urging their transformation to responsible and democratic political actors is an essential challenge facing the American president.” (p.5)

Containing these two countries has a high priority. At the end of March 2012, Romney described Russia as “geopolitical enemy Number One.” [26] In “An American Century,” Kagan says similarly: “Russia has become a destabilizing power on the world stage regarding the energy supply of Central and Western Europe, through its nuclear weapon arsenal, its recent history of aggressive military actions and on account of its power in multilateral institutions like the United Nations.” (p.34) Obama’s – half-hearted – “reset-policy” as an attempted reconciliation between the US and Russia is chastised as a misguided appeasement policy. He warned “As soon as he is in office, Mitt Romney will reset the reset.” (p.35)

China gets its share not far behind Enemy Number One. “If the present Chinese regime is allowed to establish itself as the dominant power in the western Pacific, a large part of the region could be closed to cooperative relations with the US and the West.” (p.18) Since this must be prevented by any means, a military presence must be built there. “Maintaining a strong military presence in the Pacific is not an invitation for conflicts but the opposite. [... ] The US should maintain and develop the presence of the Navy in the western Pacific.” (p.18)

Alongside the conflicts withy Russia and China, “An American Century” is intensively occupied with the “Eurasian crisis arch” that must be “pacified” from the view of the Romney campaign. “Comparatively new dangers emanating from transnational actors and above all terrorist groups are at the other end of the spectrum. [... ] A great arch spans over the world extending from Pakistan to Libya and finds itself nowadays in extreme commotion. Since it joins East and West, this region is the turnstile on which Eurasia decisions are made. Its geostrategic significance cannot be overrated. The region contains some of the largest worldwide energy deposits. It includes some of the most important worldwide bottlenecks for ocean shipping inclusive of the Suez Canal and the Straits of Hormuz.” (p.5)

A complete withdrawal regarding the two military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan is clearly rejected (even if the Obama administration did not intend this). For Iraq, 14,000 to 18,000 soldiers will stay in the country for the long run and thereby actually maintain a permanent occupation. This demand is endorsed in “An American Century.” This could “guarantee that Bagdad remains a reliable partner in an unstable and strategically vital region.” (p.24) With view to Afghanistan, the initiated withdrawal of divisions of US troops is sharply criticized. A complete review of the question about the future US presence in the country is openly aimed at. (p.31)

It is absolutely bizarre when the report speaks about so-called rogue states. After two states fell out of the original “axis of evil” – expanded by John Bolton – because of the attacks on Iraq and Libya, Iran, North Korea and Cuba find themselves in that axis – along with a new entry – Venezuela! (p.6) A harsh tone is sounded toward Iran. “Mitt Romney is convinced that Iran possessing nuclear weapons is unacceptable. [... ] This message should be emphasized with acts, not only with words.” (p.25) Building a military presence in the region is announced and justified as follows: “The likelihood that Iran will peaceably abandon its nuclear ambitions only exists if Iran understands the United States is absolutely resolute when we say its nuclear weapons program is unacceptable.” (p.25)

The emphasis on military power as the most important element of international politics is omnipresent and consistently reflected in the demands that the US violence-machine should heavily arm itself. “For the defense of American national interests in a world full of dangers, the United States should always maintain powerful military capacities to defend itself and its allies.” (p.8) A concrete figure is even named for the envisioned height of the military budget under a future President Romney: “at least four percent of the gross domestic product.” (p.16) That would be $600 billion annually if the GDP of 2012 is taken as a basis. While Barack Obama seems to show readiness to moderately drive back the military budget, Romney wants to hear absolutely nothing about that but retains the present exorbitant level.

Romney’s agenda envisions a balanced budget despite increasing the military budget and massive tax cuts. The “Center on Budget Policy Priorities” calculated that cuts in the social security system of 29 percent would be necessary. [27] Romney is a champion of the rich and militarists as he showed at an election campaign event at the end of September 2012 that was secretly filmed. He and his agenda for an “American Century” correspond exactly to these priorities.

CONCLUSION

On this background, a Romney election victory would be catastrophic from a peace perspective. Given the military policy for which Barack Obama was responsible in the last four years, it is more than difficult to hope for his election victory. As described, he gradually and then radically distanced himself from Mitt Romney’s militarist agenda. Hopefully reason will come and a clear peace alternative with prospects for success will arise in the US. Unfortunately this is not debated in the current constellation. As the recently deceased Gore Vidal said, “America has a one-party system with two right wings.”

NOTES

1) Berman, Ari: Mitt Romney’s Neocon War Cabinet, The Nation, 21.05.2012.
2) Ebd.
3) Vgl. für eine hervorragende »Würdigung« der neokonservativen Agenda und ihrer Protagonisten etwa Halper, Stefan/Clarke, Jonathan: America Alone: The Neo-Conservatives and the Global Order, Cambridge 2004.
4) Rebuilding America’s Defenses. A Report of The Project for the New American Century, September 2000, S. II.
5) Ebd., S. 2f.
6) Dazu gehörten Paul Wolfowitz, unter George W. Bush stellvertretender Verteidigungsminister, Lewis Libby, Stabschef von Vizepräsident Dick Cheney und einige andere wie Stephen Cambone, Dov Zakheim oder Peter W. Rodman.
7) Vgl. Chossudovsky, Michel: America’s War for Global Domination, Centre for Research on Globalisation, 10.12.2003.
8) http://www.newamericancentury.org/iraqclintonletter.htm
9) Vgl. Bolton, John R.: Beyond the Axis of Evil: Additional Threats from Weapons of Mass Destruction, The Heritage Foundation Lectures, 06.05.02, S. 7.
10) Vgl. Berman 2012.
11) Wilson, Joseph C. : What I Didn’t Find in Africa, New York Times, 06.03.2012.
12) Zumindest macht Berman 2012 Edelman als Quelle aus, Wikipedia (Eintrag »Plame-Affäre«) benennt allerdings den damaligen Vizeaußenminister Richard Armitage.
13) Wikipedia (Eintrag »Plame-Affäre«).
14) Berman 2012.
15) Kagan, Robert/Kristol, William (Hgg.): Present Dangers: Crisis and Opportunity in American Foreign and Defense Policy, San Francisco 2000.
16) Kagan, Robert: Power and Weakness, in: Policy Review, June-July 2002. In Buchform: Kagan, Robert: Macht und Ohnmacht. Amerika und Europa in der neuen Weltordnung, Berlin 2003.
17) Kagan, Robert: Die Demokratie und ihre Feinde: Wer gestaltet die neue Weltordnung? Berlin 2008, S. 7.
18) Vgl. Wagner, Jürgen: Metamorphose der Geopolitik: Westlicher Vormachtanspruch und der drohende Neue Kalte Krieg, in: Krisenmanagement: »Sicherheitsarchitektur« im globalen Ausnahmezustand, Informationsstelle Militarisierung, Tübingen, April 2010, S. 5-14.
19) Kagan, Robert: Not Fade Away. The myth of American decline, The New Republic, 11.01.2012. Auch hier erschien kurz darauf eine aufgepäppelte Buchvariante: Kagan, Robert: The World America Made, New York 2012.
20) Rogin, Josh: Obama embraces Romney advisor’s theory on ‚The Myth of American Decline’, Foreign Policy (The Cable), 26.01.2012.
21) Kagan 2012.
22) Siehe Jim Lobe: PNAC Revisited, 01.07.2012: http://www.lobelog.com/pnac-revisited
23) http://www.foreignpolicyi.org/about/staff
24) Foreign Policy 2012, The Foreign Policy Initiative, September 2012 Edition: http://www.foreignpolicyi.org/files/uploads/images/20120817-FPI-BriefingBook.pdf
25) An American Century – A Strategy to Secure America’s Enduring Interests and Ideals. A Romney for President White Paper, 07.10.2011, S. 4. Alle im Text folgenden Seitenzahlen beziehen sich auf diese Quelle.
26) Mitt Romney Says Russia Is No. 1 Geopolitical Foe, ABCNews, 26.03.2012.
27) Kogan, Richard/Water, Paul N. Van de: Romney Budget Proposals would require massive cuts in Medicare, Medicaid, and other Programs, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 21.05.2012.
Jürgen Wagner ist Redakteur von Wissenschaft & Frieden und Vorstand der Informationsstelle Militarisierung (IMI e.V.). Dieser Artikel erschien in gekürzter Form auch in der Jungen Welt.

RELATED LINKS

Scharenberg, Albert, “Obama vs. Romney,” October 2012

http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2012/10/419296.shtml

http://thinkprogress.org

http://www.buzzflash.com

http://www.therealnews.com

http://www.onthecommons.org

http://www.democracynow.org

homepage: homepage: http://www.freembtranslations.net
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